Shoulder to the Wheel

Research output: Non-textual outputArtefact

Abstract

Shoulder to the Wheel represents a large hand carved wooden wheel produced by wood craftsman Gareth Neal, together with a book of drawings investigating the form and essence of the wheel in an historical context. The work was undertaken when Neal was invited to be part of an expert group investigating the history and concept of the wooden wheel and resulted in workshops and an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham.

The 1923 publication ‘The Wheelwright’s Shop’ by George Sturt, a text documenting the last days and working knowledge of the craftsman in a wheelwright’s shop, served as the central point of reference for the curator and participating craftspeople. Neal’s research and practice explored the object history of the handmade wheel through a craftsperson’s understanding of the material and the skills which govern the production, an investigation predicated on an intimacy with the material and historic tools. The undertaking recognised the primordial discovery of the wheel, and engaged with the significance of this through handworking a single elm block, developing and demonstrating the relationship between the material character of the block and the process of controlled shaping.

Neal’s series of drawings accompanying the craftwork, published as A Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Wooden Wheel (2019), and the exhibition make explicit the view of the historic craftsperson and maker in responding to challenges in production during the evolution of the wheel. Together the object and publication reveal the gap between handmade wheel production at a time when this was essential and the changing and contested 21st century perspective on craft.

The work was first exhibited at The Crafts Study Centre, Farnham in 2019, accompanied by a symposium. It was then shown at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Reading, until closure in March 2020.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCrafts Study Centre, The University of the Creative Arts, Farnham
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

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